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R. v. Saunders, 1990 1 SCR 1020 – McLaughlin CJC – Conspiracy & Drug Case

Cases of Note / 21.03.1990

The Crown announced at the beginning of the hearing that it intended to prove that the accused conspired to import heroin.  In the course of the trial, it became clear that the imported drug by which the Crown intended to prove a major element of the alleged conspiracy was not heroin but cocaine.

…I am of the view that the (prosecution’s) appeal must be dismissed.  It is a fundamental principle of criminal law that the offence, as particularized in the charge, must be proved. …The Crown chose to particularize the offence in this case as a conspiracy to import heroin.  Having done so, it was obliged to prove the offence thus particularized. To permit the Crown to prove some other offence characterized by different particulars would be to undermine the purpose of providing particulars, which is to permit “the accused to be reasonably informed of the transaction alleged against him, thus giving him the possibility of a full defence and fair trial”.